Rodney adjusted the radiation hood on his suit and then had to hurry to catch up with John. As far as he was concerned, this was a waste of time. Even if they found Ford, he wasn't going to thank them for hunting him down. The Genii had heard one or two things about Ford and his merry band of Wraith enzyme addicts, and as far as Rodney was concerned, the man was responsible for his own crazy. However, that's not how John saw things. As far as John was concerned, it was all Ellis' fault that Ford wasn't safely at home in Atlantis right now.
Rodney thought that was a little unfair to Ellis, and considering that Rodney hated Ellis with the energy of a star going supernova, that was saying something.
"So," Rodney said, nearly shouting to be heard over the thick plastic in the suit. He hated the heat inside the thing, but he would hate getting exposed to radiation even more. In his job he'd been exposed to so much already that he lived in constant terror of developing some cancer. Hell, the Genii had nearly fried him when he had John had found their underground lair back in year one.
John gave him a look out of the side of his eyes. "Yes?" he drawled.
"We're opening more gardens and hydroponics. Whoever was in charge of the labs ten thousand years ago really should have been fired. Nothing was properly sealed and we're having to disassemble all the equipment." Rodney held his breath and waited for John to ask about the power required for that sort of operation. While Rodney had promised Radek and Samas that he wouldn't tell the whole truth, he'd also said he wouldn't lie to John.
"Uh huh," John said. He wasn't even giving Rodney his full attention.
"We're having to heat sterilize everything."
This time John only grunted.
"And the water treatment systems are requiring the manufacture of new parts altogether. We've had to open a manufacturing plant in Central-West 3 to handle the extra demand. The Genii are talking about sending us another twenty techs to take some of the burden off the Hoff." Rodney held his breath as he waited for John to ask where all that energy had come from, but John just scanned the trees.
It was Teyla who responded. "It sounds like the work is difficult, but to provide emergency supplies for so many who need it is a worthy cause."
"Yes, yes. I know," Rodney snapped.
John turned and raised an eyebrow at him. "Getting a little hot in there, Rodney?"
"It's better than frying my brain with radiation. Some of us have brains to care about," Rodney shot right back. Immediately he could feel his face heat with embarrassment. He hadn't meant to bite John's head off, but he didn't know how to get John to notice the important part of that sentence. They were burning through power like crazy. If they were truly working off the one ZPM from Degan, Rodney never would have signed off on the work they were doing. And since neither Rodney nor Carter had yet won the race to recharge a ZPM on their own, John should be putting two and two together. Should. Clearly John was not giving Rodney his full attention. And now Rodney had gone and insulted his lover. No wonder he couldn't keep relationships going past the two month mark. At least he hadn't before John, and Rodney couldn't help waiting for the moment when he would say something spectacularly honest and cruel and John would walk out.
Obviously this was not that moment. John gave him a crazy grin. "It's the hair. Radiation doesn't dare try and penetrate my hair," he said. He then shoulder bumped Rodney. "If you're too hot, you can head back to the jumper and wait."
"John and I can continue the search," Teyla agreed.
Rodney grunted. "This is a team thing, and I'm part of this team." Rodney wasn't about to admit it, but he'd hated the months under Ellis when he'd been banned from going off-world because he was too valuable.
"Yes," John agreed, "you are, but you're a hot and possibly hypoglycemic member of this team."
Rodney pushed away and took point for the two second it took John to catch up and move ahead once again. Teyla fell in next to Rodney.
"You are doing valued work. Our allies are very taken with the idea that Atlantis wishes to provide for refugees who find themselves in need of food. While other empires have risen, such as the Genii and the Sateteans, none have ever turned their technology toward charitable work."
"Sateteans?" John asked over his shoulder.
"Another civilization that grew too technologically advanced for the Wraith to tolerate. Unlike the Genii, they were not able to save any part of their world."
"This really is a shitty corner of the universe," John muttered.
"It is," Teyla agreed calmly. "However, many attitudes toward the Lanteans are shifting. Much of the anger people felt in the face of your mistakes is fading now that people see that, like a child, you are attempting to mend that which you broke."
John turned around. "They think we're children?"
"They think you are young and idealistic and very used to a world where you had control in a way that is not possible in this galaxy."
John rested his hand on the end of his weapon. "So they think we're kids?"
Teyla gave him a small smile. "You have provided some rather convincing evidence to that end."
"The lack of respect around here is shocking," John said in a voice that was clearly teasing. Rodney wished he knew how to do that--how to criticize people without sounding like he hated them. John might talk about how he was bad with people, but Rodney never saw it.
"I assure you, the things we say to your face are far less shocking than those we said behind Ellis' back," Teyla offered with a tilt of her head.
"You? I never thought of you as talking behind someone's back." John sounded genuinely surprised.
"Had he bothered accepting any of my requests for a meeting, I would not have felt the need. I could have said all those things to his face." Teyla's smile looked a lot like the one she would use right before hitting someone really hard with a bantos rod.
"Yes, yes, Ellis was an idiot," Rodney said. He had a limited window of opportunity here, and he needed John to ask the right questions because keeping secrets from his lover was giving him ulcers. "If the man hadn't been so desperate for more power to get Atlantis up and running, he never would have taken the risks he did."
John started down the path again. "Says the man who filed a request to go back to Doranda."
"That research has great potential," Rodney said in his own defense. "And yes, right now it makes more sense to focus on the ZPM project because we need to get more of the city up and running." Rodney paused, mentally willing John to make the damn connection. Clearly Rodney had overestimated the moron's intelligence. Either that or John was utterly distracted by this wild goose chase. "However, once we have all the ZPMs recharged, I still think the station there shows a lot of potential."
"I'll bring popcorn when you try to get that one past Elizabeth."
"She just think the sun shines out the Ancients' asses," Rodney snapped.
John stopped and turned around to look at him. "Seriously, McKay, what is wrong with you today?"
"Okay, fine. We found the ZPM charging station, okay?" Rodney blurted out. The words flew out like a overstretched balloon that popped. John blinked at him. "What?"
Shit. Samas was going to kill him. Worse, Samas was going to refuse to do any coding related to any of Rodney's projects. And then Radek was going to kill him. "We found the station," Rodney repeated.
John stared at him.
The silence ate at Rodney the way no condemnation could. "We have a total of twelve charged ZPMs, but Radek and Samas said we shouldn't tell you because you're a military officer, and you'll tell your superiors, and your superiors are all idiots. Every last one of them has had all common sense removed as part of the promotion process."
John finally found his voice. "They... what?"
Rodney sighed. "Are you being deliberately thick?"
"Deliberately? No," John said, drawing the words out.
"Radek and Samas said that if Earth knew we had a recharging station they would want to take it, but the station is a critical part of the stardrive itself."
"Which is why you've been having tests on the star drive?" John guessed.
"Yes, yes. Those were recharging events. But my point is that you can't take the recharging station out of the city. Atlantis would literally sink if you even tried, and trust me, it wouldn't fit through the Stargate even in pieces. It's mammoth. And Radek says that Earth will insist that the recharger should be on Earth, which means they'll order us to fly Atlantis back to the Milky Way, and from there it's one short step to telling the entire Pegasus galaxy they're on their own because all the IOC really cares about is protecting Earth and their own sorry asses from the Ori."
Teyla looked alarmed now. "Surely they would not do that."
"Oh, they would," John said. "But this is important, Rodney. Twelve ZPMs would be enough to help defend Earth. Are they willing to sacrifice our home planet?"
"What? No!" Rodney hated that he couldn't explain this right. When he got excited, he always put things in the wrong order--usually whatever order was guaranteed to piss someone off. "We're working to reverse engineer the process and find a way to recharge ZPMs with Earth technology. Once Earth can recharge their own ZPMs, then they won't need our recharging station. And Radek and I had talked about finding a way to claim we found a ZPM off planet. That way we could send it back to Earth."
"You? You would willingly give up a ZPM?" John gave him an amused look. "Elizabeth would suspect something in a heartbeat." He ran a hand through his hair, scrubbing it until the various bits all changed directions. "How did you even find it?"
"Samas did. Once he knew the formulas for recharging a ZPM, he went through every line of code in the database searching for something that used the same formulas. He found the charging station."
"Oh Rodney." John sank down on a nearby tree stump.
Rodney's heart sank. He shouldn't have said anything. He looked to Teyla in desperation, and she was giving him a pitying look that pretty much said it all. Yes, he was a weak, pathetic man who couldn't keep a secret, even when he should.
"John, I believe Radek and Samas have the best of intentions in their hearts," Teyla said gently.
"Yeah, I don't doubt that," John agreed. "But this is... My planet is in danger. The whole reason we're cleaning out these gardens is that it could fall to the Ori at any time."
"And if you defeat the Ori, will you then close these gardens and tell the refugees of this galaxy to go elsewhere?"
John's head snapped up and he looked at her with horror. "No! I would never do that."
"Then you know your calling is to the people of both galaxies. You must do what is right for all the people."
John started shaking his head. "It doesn't work that way. I'm just a colonel."
Teyla gave him a sad look. "Your rank is not as important as your responsibilities to your people, John."
"I think that's the definition of treason."
"Then you must find a way to serve your duty and your people," Teyla said firmly.
When John looked over toward Rodney, Rodney sort of wilted. It was his fault that John was in this position. Worse, this wasn’t the sort of mistake Rodney could take back. John sighed. “We finish this mission, and then we decide what to do.”
“Are you going to file a report?” Rodney asked miserably. Samas was going to kill him, and worse, he was justified.
“Rodney, I’m barely more than a major. This is my first real command. I can’t go making these sorts of decisions by myself.”
“Rodney,” John growled. Teyla gave Rodney her best ‘shut-up or I’ll hurt you’ look, and Rodney closed his mouth. That’s what he should have done in the first place. He hated secrets, at least big ones that mattered. People had a right to personal secrets. Like his first name—that was no one’s business. And the fact that Abby slept in a coffin—that was the sort of detail that could land a person on the psychological review list, which was totally unjustified. Yes it was morbid, but objectively speaking, it was only wood and fabric, just like most Earth beds. But when it came to big secrets he always ended up spilling his guts to someone he thought had a right to know.
“Teyla, take point,” John said.
She nodded and moved forward. Rodney opened his mouth to offer to go back to the jumper or to join Lorne’s team or something, but John held up one finger in a ‘don’t-say-it’ gesture that made him close his mouth again.
“Colonel,” Teyla said, her voice quiet. Rodney felt a shiver go up his spine, and John moved into a crouch and brought his weapon up.
“You have something?”
“I do not know.” Before Teyla could say anything else, she was surrounded by a red glow. She cried out and then slowly folded, her body sinking to the ground.
“Teyla!” Rodney cried out.
“Down!” John hissed. Without waiting to see if Rodney followed the order, he started moving forward. He had his P-90 up, but the red beam caught him and he dropped like a puppet with its strings cut—silently and suddenly.
Rodney was frozen. He should run for help, but he couldn’t leave his team. When a huge man stepped out of the shadows and moved toward Teyla, Rodney pulled out his handgun. “Stay away from her!” he yelled. His hand nearly shook as he held the weapon. This was his first time in the field in almost seven months. It was supposed to be a milk run—a quick look around to see if Ford had set up shop. The man looked feral with hair hanging around his face. Worse, he had a big gun pointing right at Teyla’s slumped form.
“I mean it. Get back!” Rodney took a step forward, and the man brought his weapon up. Rodney fired, but his shot went wide, probably because his hand was shaking so badly. Teyla and John might be dead already. Knowing that the red light was coming for him, Rodney tried leaping to the side, but halfway to the ground, he felt the heat catch him. Red enveloped him, and then everything went black.